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Judge Edwin O. Lewis

Posted on Tuesday, December 25, 2018

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Judge Edwin O. Lewis - Modern Day Founding Father

Judge Edwin O. Lewis is considered one of the modern-day Founding Fathers because of the instrumental role that he played in the creation and preservation of Independence National Historical Park. Over the course of 30 years, Lewis worked tirelessly to bring his vision into reality.

Judge Edwin O. Lewis

Lewis was born in Richmond, Virginia, and he moved to Philadelphia at the age of 16. Originally a printer in the newspaper industry, Lewis studied law at the University of Pennsylvania School of Law. Lewis served as a Municipal Judge on the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas bench for 34 years until he retired in 1957. Lewis was also a member of the American Philosophical Society, Chairman of the National Shrines Commission and Founder of the Independence Hall Association.

The Independence Hall Association was founded in 1942 to spearhead the creation of Independence National Historical Park. The Independence Hall Association is written into the enabling legislation of Independence Park, and it stands as an independent group of private concerned citizens overseeing and being consulted on matters concerning the Park. Additionally, the Independence Hall Association helped in the effort to reconstruct the Declaration House, and donated the statue of the Signer in Signers’ Garden.

As a proud Philadelphian who loved America’s Birthplace, Lewis led a team effort to preserve Independence Hall and other historic sites in Philadelphia. When Independence Park was established in 1948, Lewis was tasked with overseeing its development. He envisioned a park with green spaces to enhance the structures, namely Independence Hall, and protect America’s Birthplace and other historic sites from the potential of catching fire from neighboring structures.  Lewis’s vision became a reality and lives on today in the evolving design of Independence Mall with its broad central green lawns and surrounding areas.

Unfortunately, Lewis died within a couple of years of the Bicentennial Celebration, which he would have cherished witnessing. Lewis passed away on September 19, 1974, and The New York Times paid a moving tribute to this great man in his Obituary.

Prior to the redesign of Independence Mall with the construction of the Independence Visitor Center in 2001, the Judge Edwin O. Lewis Fountain formerly stood on the North side of Market Street between 5th and 6th Streets.

Judge Edwin O. Lewis Fountain with Independence Hall in the Background

Today, there is a plaque toward the back of the Independence Visitor Center that reads,

"In recogition of the dedication and sustained efforts that led to the creation of Independence Mall State Park and Independence National Historical Park, the Senate of the General Assembly of Pennsylvania directs in tribute to the Honorable Edwin O. Lewis that this site between Market and Arch Streets henceforth be known as the Edwin O. Lewis Quadrangle, commemorating the foresight of a great American dedicated to the priceless historical heritage of his nation, state and city, June 1963."

Edwin O. Lewis Quadrangle

The Constitutional Walking Tour proudly stands on the shoulders of Judge Lewis whose passion and perseverance, against strong head winds, helped create Independence National Historical Park and preserve Independence Hall and America’s Birthplace for many future generations to come.

 

 

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